Alleged to have submitted incomplete student figures, Council appointing independent auditor at the City University

PTU News Reporter

News reports in October 2017 claimed that the City University of Hong Kong submitted an incomplete claim of the number of students, resulting in an increase in teacher-student ratio and a better assessment value. Herman Hu, the then chairperson of the Council of the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) denied the said allegations, and had since appointed an independent auditor to audit the statistics concerning teacher-student ratio. Related figures will be released after the completion of the audition. Also a university teaching staff, the President of the HKPTU, Dr. Fung Wai Wah expressed concerns on the consequence brought by an over-emphasis on rankings to the developments of universities.

Inconsistencies Between Figures Submitted by CityU and the UGC

Comparing different figures submitted by the CityU of Hong Kong, news reports revealed that the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and Times Higher Education (THE) both indicated the number of students studying at the CityU of Hong Kong in the 2015/16 academic year to be 9,240. Statistics of the University Grants Committee (UGC) suggests otherwise, indicating the number of students to be 13,283, revealing a significant difference in numbers. The CityU was alleged to have submitted figures of students studying in the summer semester, with final year students graduating and freshmen students yet to be enrolled, resulting in a significant decrease in the number of students.  The CityU denied all allegations. Herman Hu stated that “we have nothing to hide. CityU can stand under the sunlight”. The University had since appointed an independent auditor to audit statistics concerning student numbers, and had promised to release relevant statistics upon the completion of the auditions.

Media reports had further pointed out the QS practice of providing paid services, providing universities with extra assessment services upon payment. Said services are annually priced at around $320,000, with City University and the Hong Kong Baptist University opting into the programme last year. CityU was awarded an assessment grading of “5+”, a score even higher than those attained by top-rank universities such as Harvard, California Institute of Technology, and Cambridge. As an income source of QS, this programme charges at a significantly high rate; with government subsidized universities to join in these assessment programme raises questions of the appropriateness of use of funding. By providing assessment services on payment basis, the legitimacy of QS rankings is notably challenged. In interviews, representatives of QS emphasized on the the impartiality of QS, stating that no results of assessments carried out in the payment-based programme will be affected by the varying amount paid by universities.

Putting The Cart In Front of The Horse

Red flags were once again signalled against the consequences of an over-emphasis on the pursuit of rankings brought to the tertiary education sector. Dr. Fung Wai Wah said the emphasis on university rankings by personnel at the managerial level in universities had prompted scholars to focus mainly on research and publication works in international periodicals, resulting in a severe imbalance. Scholars are then faced with immense pressure—failing to publish works in famous periodicals, resulting in negative impact in promotion or renewal of contracts. Such practices turned universities into producing publication mills, neglecting the responsibilities of nurturing talents.

Purchasing grading services instead of funding research and education developments, as did by certain universities puts the cart in front of the horse, clearly reflecting a distortion in university education by a culture of pursuing rankings among universities; it is utmost unacceptable for universities to be providing incomplete statistics in order to acquire improved rankings. The HKPTU hereby awaits for the City University of Hong Kong to complete audition in time and disclose all relevant information, ensuring no universities are acquiring improved rankings through dishonest measures.